Robbie has a passion for machines for wood research or on the road

'I was on a mission to make sure dad realised his dream.'

Mon 30 Jan 23


Wood scientist Dr Robbie McGavin loves ‘tinkering’ with a Ledink Rotolas rotary planning machine at the DAF Salisbury Research Facility in Brisbane.

He first sighted this example of Slovenian wood technology brilliance at the LIGNA trade fair in Germany in 2001 during the EuroWood trade mission.

But another deep passion for Robbie is tinkering with his father’s 1964 Ford Galaxie Fastback 427cui ‘muscle machine’.

“I reckon if I had to hear about the Galaxie my whole life, I owed it to dad to help him realise his dream,” he said.

Robbie McGavin behind the wheel of his father’s 1964 Ford Galaxie Fastback 427cui.

Bob McGavin became obsessed with Ford Galaxies when he first saw them on a racetrack in the mid 60s.

“It’s been a bit of a mission of mine to ensure that he had the car of his dreams to enjoy in his retirement,” Robbie said.

“After completing a full resto, it was nice to hand it back to him.

“The car was bought sight unseen in 2013, after closely reviewing what seemed like hundreds of photos. It wasn’t quite a ‘barn find’ but it was close. It was part of a private collection and the best we could determine it had sat idle in a barn for about 25 years.

“It was essentially the perfect original; the original sales docket was in the glovebox.”

Once the Galaxie arrived in Australia from Tennessee, it didn’t take long before it was registered and on the road. Over the years, there has been much tinkering with the engine and other parts, but it was in 2018 when the engine came out that a serious power plant was built for the car.

The engine is a 427cui FE big block, the same engine made famous during Ford’s very public stoush with Ferrari at the battle ground of Le Mans in the late 60s. It was also a dominant race engine in NASCAR, NHRA and the like in its day.

“The build, however, would see the engine go from 427 cui to 482 cui (~7.9 Litres),” said Robbie.

“With the additional power came a gearbox upgrade (Tremec TKO500) and a few other bits and pieces, including an upgrade of the brakes.”

Robbie said mechanically it was amazing, but the rest of the car remained original, including the original factory paint (Raven Black), but it was starting to show its age.

“In late 2021, it was time to give the aesthetics a freshen up,” he said. “What started as targeting just an external paint job, soon ended with the car in a million pieces and we were down to a rolling shell.

“The car was sent to a panel shop for a fresh paint job then came the huge task of putting it back together. Seven consignments of parts (mostly concourse) from the USA and many hours of sweat, blood and tears (literally), and the car hit the road just before Christmas last year – rebuilt inside and out.

“It certainly isn’t the most economical thing on the road, but it’s an amazing to drive – probably best described as driving a big comfy lounge chair down the road. But once you push the big right pedal, it becomes a fire-breathing beast that really turns heads.”

Editor’s note: Ford’s most famous big block engine of all time had only a modest impact on the street drag wars that dominated the 1960s muscle car scene. Although it hailed from the FE family of engines that modernised the Bluje Oval’s V8s across most of its line-up, and was available to customers who knew which boxes to check at ordering time, the 427 was destined to perform not so much on Woodward Boulevard but rather the race track.

Designed specifically to dominate at the highest levels of NASCAR, NHRA, and even international sports car competition, the Ford 427 V8 became a legend that demonstrated just how advanced the automaker’s engineering capabilities were during an era where horsepower was king and brands were seeking even the slightest edge over each other in the ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’ mindset.

The FE series of V8s had gone through no less than six iterations from the day they were introduced in 1958 until the 427 version joined the party in 1963. It took over from the short-lived 406, which had in turn been developed as an offshoot of the longer-lasting 390.

Although the engine actually displaced the 425 cub in., Ford rounded it up to 427 to match the limits of the various racing series in which the motor was expected to perform. It also helped when marketing the engine against the big block V8s on offer from GM in vehicles such as the Chevrolet Impala and (eventually) the Chevelle.


  • Orson Whiels

    Orson Whiels has been a motoring writer for many years and was motoring writer at Queensland Country life in the 1960s-70s and then motoring editor at Australian Timberman.)


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